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V3I3: Beacon Award Winner: Oregon State University’s Faculty-Student Mentoring Program (FSMP)

Awarded to: Gloria Crisp, Professor and Chair of the Adult and Higher Education programs, Oregon State University

Oregon State University is celebrating the success of its Faculty-Student Mentoring Program (FSMP), which received the 2020 Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

The FSMP is an innovative mentoring program that launched as a two-year pilot program beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year. The goal of the FSMP program was to make measurable improvements to first-year grade point average (GPA) and retention rates of Pell-eligible students and students who identified as first generation and/or as a student of color.

The FSMP champions success by providing students with an organized and institutionally supported mechanism to help them better connect with faculty and peers and find belonging at OSU. The semi-structured program provides new first-year and transfer students with a pathway to making meaningful connections to both faculty and experienced peers in an effort to reduce the structural and social barriers faced by many students at OSU, especially those who have been systematically marginalized and made to feel unwelcome by the academy.

The FSMP program was modeled after similar programs at Purdue University, University of Colorado-Boulder, and University of California Riverside but is innovative in its design and approach. Students in the program are co-mentored by a faculty mentor and peer mentor. The program is also unique in that it is structured as a group experience with mentoring teams involving between one and five new to OSU students. Mentoring teams meet for one hour every other week during fall, winter, and spring quarters.

A total of 173 students participated in one or more mentoring session during the 2018-19 academic year. Evaluation findings indicate that the FSMP pilot program made important contributions to student achievement and success at OSU. Specifically, significant gains were shown for both grade point average and retention. For instance, the overall retention rate for the cohort of students who first enrolled at OSU in fall 2018 was 84 percent. In comparison, the retention rate for FSMP participants was 88 percent. Further, the retention rate for a matched group who did not participate in the program was only 81 percent.

Both faculty and peer mentors saw students needed help in learning more about academic options and requirements, career opportunities, and experiential learning opportunities. Mentors felt good about helping students match their skills and abilities to options and opportunities. A student shared that their faculty mentor gave good advice regarding current and future educational plans as well as challenging their current plan to help them to improve and succeed. Peer mentors were also found to serve as important role models for students. A student shared, “My peer mentor was a joy to have. She was positive and very charismatic. Her positivity was always contagious and was the main driving force of the conversations. She also provided excellent resources for me to explore, such as clubs and activities that she participates in, acting as a role model and telling me about the wide variety of ways to get involved in school.”

FSMP participants appreciated receiving information about how to be successful in their classes as well as thrive more broadly at OSU. Peer and faculty mentors commented about providing new OSU students with resources and tips and information about specific classes. One mentoring group visited the academic success center and showed (as well as encouraged) students to stop by faculty’s office hours. Additionally, a student shared, “My faculty mentor was great at providing resources for me and the other student in my group and I enjoyed going to each meeting. She genuinely cared about how we were adjusting to college and was very helpful this year.” Faculty also observed that some students appreciated their help in understanding “the system” including how to request a recommendation letter or how to apply to graduate school.

Evaluation data highlight the benefits of faculty and peers working together to mentor students. Several mentors described their co-mentoring relationship as a partnership of mutual respect. FSMP participants shared that they appreciated having two mentors as they often learned and benefited in different ways from their peer mentor and faculty mentor. One peer mentor commented, “I think the balance between the peer and faculty mentor perspective are very useful. Additionally, by sharing our own experiences related to the topic we are showing how answers can vary or be very similar even though we have different backgrounds.” Similarly, the faculty mentors offered numerous comments to express their appreciation for working with both a peer mentor and new students.

The FSMP program would not have been successful without the support and dedication of a dedicated team of faculty, staff, and administrators including Caitlin McVay (Program Coordinator), Roy Haggerty (Dean of the College of Science), Dan Larson (Associate Vice Provost), Jennifer Humphreys (Operations Associate of the Division of Student Affairs), Kevin Dougherty (Associate Vice Provost & Dean of Students), Gloria Crisp (Professor), Gabrielle James (Associate Director of Student Engagement), and Maureen Cochran (Director of Student Affairs Assessment). Several OSU graduate students including Christene James, Patrick McEachern, Kayleen Eng, Matt Tradewell, and Nathan Petitti also supported the pilot program.

In fall 2020 the Faculty Student Mentoring Program was renamed Beaver Connect and provided administrative support to continue and expand the program. The Beaver Connect Program is housed within OSU’s Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), which supports the development of students who have traditionally been denied equal access to higher education. The Beaver Connect program seeks to directly contribute to OSU’s strategic plan by helping to reduce opportunity gaps and to raise the retention rates of students of color, low-income, and first-generation new first-year and transfer students to 90 percent by 2030. The program also intends to expand access to new students at the OSU Cascades campus as well as in OSU’s Ecampus program.

 

 

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